By Randy Blackaby
There are elements of child-rearing that mothers simply cannot accomplish alone. The greatest mother cannot replace a father. Neither can step-dads, boyfriends, or other males.
This isn’t an assault on mothers. It is a plea to recognize the critical role God has given fathers.
There was a day when this was broadly understood. But the popular notion today is that a mother can work a little harder and be both mom and dad. Or, that another man can step in and do the job, after the real father has failed to many the mother, divorced her, or himself been divorced.
That mothers cannot do a father’s job is in evidence all around us. Child poverty, juvenile crime, an epidemic of unwed pregnancy, and growing violence against women by young men are just a few tell-tale signs.
God designed and defined fathers as the primary providers for their families. This includes physical provision (1 Tim. 5:8). And more importantly, it involves spiritual provision (Eph. 6:4).
A mother can partially provide for these needs. But not like a father. The leading cause of poverty in the U.S., particularly child poverty, is the fatherless home. This is true despite the fact that more women today work than ever before.
Ask any Christian woman who is a single mother about the increased difficulty of raising children to be faithful to the Lord without a father’s help.
Fathers also have a unique ability to provide identity, character, and competence to their offspring. Without fathers, children often encounter problems understanding who they are and what they ought to be like. Fathers provide their children a “name” and all the expectations that such identity entails. If you don’t understand the significance of this, talk to a child whose father skipped out and whose mother wears another man’s name.
Joshua’s words ring out over the centuries as he publicly identified who he was and where his family would stand. “And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for your-selves this day whom you will serve . . . but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord,” he said.
Joshua was providing for his family’s spiritual welfare. He also was doing something else that fathers are specially de-signed for leadership.
Mothers certainly can lead. There are plenty of Bible examples. And they are to be obeyed by their children. But there is an element of family leadership that uniquely be-longs to fathers. Righteous fathers exhibit a foresight, a commitment to the well-being of their families, and a sense of self-sacrifice that is exhibited in daily action. It often is demonstrated in doing jobs they don’t enjoy because they have a family to support.
While mothers nurture their young through a compassionate caring for present needs, fathers nurture with a longer view. Mothers often tend to over-protection, while fathers give latitude designed to encourage independent living, risk-taking, and the skills necessary to launch their children as competent adults.
Both roles are critical. But God’s design of male and female doesn’t provide for one sex assuming both roles.
One of the most critical roles fathers exercise, that mothers can’t match, is in the assertion of authority. Whether it is the male’s generally stronger physique, his more direct and assertive mode of communication, or elements we can’t readily put our fingers on fathers can anticipate more responsive obedience than a mother by herself.
That this is God’s design is evident from passages like Genesis 18:19. In fact, a wife herself is to be subject to his authority (Eph. 5:22-24, 33; Col. 3:18).
This sets a physical pattern for a most critical spiritual lesson. A father on earth has authority (power) and is to be obeyed. A wife and mother teaches that fact to her children not just with words but with her own sub-mission. Thus, children are given a physical demonstration of both authority and submission, foundational principles that lead to respect of their Heavenly Father’s authority.
Strip family life of a father’s power and you usually get children without a model for submission to any sort of authority save their own lusts. Sin and lostness result (1 John 2:15-17).
Fathers usually have the “power” to provide a type of righteous “man-handling” that every child needs, particularly in the teenage years.
Many single moms who think they have been doing pretty good find out differently when their children become teen-agers. The teenage boy tempted to sass his mother, fears his father’s wrath. The I4-year-old girl who might convince her mother to let her date a boy five years older, fears what dad will say and probably do!
That’s because fathers also bring a “protective” quality to the family that goes beyond what a mother can provide. Boys in single-parent homes may rebel against mom, even hit her. But few will dare strike dad’s wife. Young girls may not know what most teenage boys are looking for on a date but dad does and he doesn’t intend to see his daughter hurt.
Like Noah, the righteous father protects his family from physical and spiritual harm.
He puts the welfare of his family ahead of his own and thus paints a human picture of the divine Father. Through this modeling children learn true character, self-discipline, deferred gratification, morality, sexual roles, and the means to be parents themselves.
No super-mom can fill a father’s shoes!
Guardian of Truth XLI: 12 p. 6-7
June 19, 1997